Tag Archives: Primeval

Primeval – S04E02 – Review

I got nothing.

The current series of Primeval is so ordinary that I have neither strong positive or negative feelings towards it. They aren’t screwing things up badly like they did last season, neither are they making me interested like they did in the first season. I’ve watched through this episode 3 times and still I’ve got nothing, so I decided to try my Fusion Patrol approach. I watch the show, take notes, fill in some comments and hope I have something to say.

Timeline/Notes

00:00 Five years ago a woman captures a bizarre baby anomaly animal and flushes it down the toilet. Yeah. I’m believing that. Looked too big to flush. Perhaps some kids would like to try some experimenting and report back to me on that one. What is the maximum size lizard you can flush. My guess is you’ll need to live in Australia or Indonesia to try that one.

00:04 Philip, “We’re poised on a new dawn” – hhhmmmmmmmm, New Dawn, that sounds fishy. What kind of scientific advancement is he hoping to get? Is it just an understanding of time, or is he perhaps trying to control time?

00:05 Danny Quinn still has a locker. They just keep reminding us about the missing Danny. Once again that seems to indicate Danny isn’t really gone yet.

00:06 Lot of old dumpy buildings in London, aren’t there? Actually, this looks like the same building they shot in during the second series.

00:07 Perky chick (what’s her name?) gives Conner the key to her apartment. Suspicious? Forward? Clueless? Not sure which. Isn’t she perky, though?

00:09 Rex is back. I hope he doesn’t feature in any more episodes. He’s such a technically stupid creature, that thing certainly couldn’t flap his wings and fly.

00:09 New guy (What’s his name?) is chatting with old guy (Is that an old Danny?) Clearly New Guy is spying for him.

00:10 We have our first fatality! Construction worker for dinner! It took 10 minutes for a fatality… this show is really slowing down.

00:11 Perky Girl’s apartment is nice. ARC must pay well well. At least she uses Macs.

00:14 Conner’s old friend, Duncan, has really moved up in the world, living rough and homeless and he has a collection of dinosaur poo! Nah, he’s not obsessing about the whole “best friend killed by dodo” thing at all.

00:20 Perky Girl has the hots for Becker!

00:21 “Are you (Abby) his (Connor’s) girlfriend?” “Wow, there’s hope for us all!” Best line in the entire series, although, I’m noticing that Abby is aging pretty fast, she’s never going to age well like Claudia Brown/Jenny Lewis. PLEASE bring Jenny back! At least we have Perky Girl.

00:24 It’s a Boar Croc (Kaprosuchus)

00:26 Abby has commandeered a boat. On what authority can she commandeer a boat? Do they carry ID?

00:27 Only the second killing. Not much of a body count. Ho hum

00:29 Becker to the rescue! Ever notice how the ARC has a team of crack military types, but none of them do anything except Becker?

00:30 Container breaks free with creature inside, falls 30+ feet… and the animal is still alive. Rubbish! Do we have to discuss the cube/square law?

00:32 I’m so glad the guys running this container port have stacked the containers in a convenient labyrinth pattern.

00:34 One utterly useless ARC soldier dead! Body count: 3

00:37 Conner has his job back! Was it ever in doubt? Wonder why they bothered with that subplot? Was it just to kill time?

00:39 Becker might have the hots for Perky Girl… and why not?

00:43 …and it’s all over. 43 minutes? That’s short!

Primeval – S04E01 – Review

All this tweeting and podcasting and suddenly I just don’t have time to review new science fictions shows – or, if I do, I do it on the podcast. That just doesn’t seem right, and one of the staples of my blog has always been reviewing episodes of Primeval. Pity they cancelled it, isn’t it?

Ah, but they didn’t, nearly two years later, Primeval is back. Is it better than before?

For those perhaps not in the loop, Primeval, an ITV science fiction program about temporal anomalies opening corridors between different times and the present, often allowing nasties such as dinosaurs into our own time, ran for 3 successful – if dubiously plotted and scientifically inaccurate – seasons, but, the global economic crisis combined with ITV financial difficulties lead to cost-cutting measures. Primeval, a CGI-heavy series, had to go, but creative financing has brought the show back to our screens. (Well, back to some people’s screens, anyway.)

Synopsis

At the end of the previous series, Danny Quinn, team leader at the Anomaly Research Center (the ARC) was trapped, perhaps forever, in the Pleistocene, having defeated Helen Cutter’s evil plans to destroy mankind. Helen had been killed by a velociraptor that had followed them through the anomaly and Quinn was cut off.

Meanwhile, Abby and Conner had been trapped in the Cretaceous, also with little hope of an anomaly opening on its own.

One year later, with a Spinosaur on their trail, Conner and Abby find Helen Cutter’s anomaly control device and manage to return to the present day, brining a Spinosaur with them. They find themselves face-to-face with the new ARC team and must all work together to stop the Spinosaur.

Analysis

Typically the analysis section of these reviews is where I rip the piss-poor science and ridiculous temporal-plotting, but this episode is something new… there’s really nothing in it. It’s a straight-forward melodrama with no twists or turns and, once past the notion of the anomalies and creatures traveling through time there’s nothing in that to pick on, either.

There are a couple things to note, first, the ARC has been turned into a “public/private partnership” and new character, Philip, Nobel-prize winning genius and inventor of the room-temperature super-conductor now seems to co-own the ARC, and is clearly in a superior position – if equal on paper – with Ben Miller’s returning character of Lester.

Of the old crew, only Becker survived in the present, and he’s been made second-in-command to a new Irish guy who is so non-descript I have to wait for someone to call him by name before I can remember what it is. (OK, I just looked it up, his name is Matt.)

Matt has a secret, he seems to be collaborating with an elderly gentlemen and, if their remarks are to be believed, they’re working together to save the world, and Matt is searching for someone at the ARC.

My pet theory is that the old man is actually Danny Quinn, returned via anomaly to some point in the past and having lived his entire life waiting for this time. I’ve got nothing to support that; however, in the “summary” at the beginning of the episode, we saw the actors faces of Conner, Abby, even dead characters like Cutter and Helen, but we only ever saw the back of Danny Quinn’s head or a quick shot where his face was obscured. If the character has been written out of the show, why would they hide his face and not the others?

Considering it was such a long time coming, I’ve not got much to say about it.

Primeval – Series 3, Episode 9 – Review, Spoilers

Well, New Zealand are out of the World Twenty20, so it’s time to review this episode of Primeval I overlooked. (OK, I intentionally overlooked it the first time around.)

Synopsis

We open with a peaceful, pastoral countryside, suddenly disrupted by horrifying freaks of nature: A camp full of young people with ATVs. But there’s more than just modern horrors in the woods, there’s also embolotherium. A prehistoric rhino-like creature. In fact, there’s a whole heard of them and they don’t half make a mess of a guy on an ATV.

Meanwhile, Danny Quinn is following up on the mysterious woman from the future who was captured by Christine Johnson’s military. Despite Lester’s warnings, Quinn breaks into Johnson’s facility after he sees the woman being held captive inside.

Under interrogation, the mystery woman reveals that, in the future, everyone is dead. Killed by the predators, but she doesn’t know where they came from. She also reveals that anomalies are rips in time, and that they are “everywhere”, but that some of them are invisible. She indicates that she knows how to find them, but she must talk to the people at the ARC. She is also in possession of a device which she refuses to explain.

Danny breaks her out.

At the campsite, the rest of the team go through the typical plot complications trying to get the embolotherium back through the anomaly, which closes before all of them are through.

Danny arrives with the mystery woman just as a stampede causes the embolotherium to thunder towards the unsuspecting campers. Just as all looks lost, the mystery woman uses the device to open an anomaly right in front of the camp and sends the herd through.

Dumbstruck, Danny takes her to the ARC, but not before stealing her notebook and giving it to Sarah to decode. The mystery woman, in turn, steals a gun.

Johnson hasn’t been taking Danny’s intrusion sitting down, and is at the ARC serving Lester with a warrant for Quinn’s arrest and the surrender of the artifact.

Danny arrives and is arrested, but then the mystery woman reveals that she is Helen Cutter using future disguise technology. She explains that she had to kill Nick Cutter to save the world, but that it didn’t work, and so she has to make sure it works next time. She kidnaps Johnson, takes the artifact and heads back to Johnson’s headquarters and her private anomaly.

She tells Johnson that she specifically is the civil servant that caused the entire destruction of the world by the predators, and she takes her through the anomaly, where she’s killed by a future predator. Helen also closes off Johnson’s anomaly after she’s dead.

Danny Quinn vows to chase Helen to the ends of time to stop her.

Analysis

I purposely didn’t write this one up because there’s so little to recommend this episode.

The episode adds a new piece to the equation: That there are lots of anomalies everywhere, but that they are somehow invisible/inaccessible. The device Helen has seems to be able to locate and open them. Also, for the first time, there’s some indication that Conner’s anomaly detectors experience some form of crude interference when near a closed anomaly. There’s never been any mention of this before and they’ve been standing next to several closed anomalies in the past. Even still, when the interference is introduced into the show, it’s not very clear what it is or why it is important. It’s not used or mentioned again.

It’s somewhat interesting that, when Helen killed Cutter in an earlier episode, she blamed the ARC for the release of the predators and the destruction of the world. In this episode she blames Christine Johnson. Is she just guessing? If she was right, did she create a new kind of time paradox by taking Christine into a future that she created and killing her there before she could create that very same future? Is Helen just bat-shit crazy?

Perhaps it will all make sense in the next and final episode? (Don’t hold your breath.)

Death of Economical Writing?

For those who don’t know, I’m supposed to be in England this week, getting ready to watch the ICC World Twenty20 Final on Sunday, but I’m not and therefore I’m in a grumpy mood, so rather than take it out on England’s mostly rubbish performance (Seriously, they lost a cricket match to the Netherlands?) I’m going to continue to pick on Primeval for a while.

ITV, the people who commission and broadcast Primeval, are loosing money. Ad revenues are down, and Primeval is an expensive show, even though its ratings are good enough to deserve a renewal. ITV has decided to concentrate on “post watershed programming”.

For Americans who read my blog, the watershed is a curiously quaint British television concept. Before the watershed is time for family programming – cute furry animals, Doctor Who and lots and lots of gardening shows. After the watershed, which I believe starts precisely at 8:23PM each night, they are allowed to talk dirty and show naked women’s breasts in the shower with water erotically cascading off their nipples. (Hence the origin of the term, “watershed”.)

(In America we solved this problem by evolving a television industry that never makes any program than anyone would ever want to watch.)

If ITV wants to concentrate on post-watershed programming we can conclude one of two things. People are more likely to be home and watching TV later at night, or more people like to watch women in showers. (You can decide that one.)

Primeval, being pre-watershed, doesn’t make was much money as ITV would like. They could solve this problem in one of three ways (or a combination of all three.)

  • They could have kept Jenny (and/or Claudia) and write in plot devices that would involve herself taking more showers, thereby forcing a move to post-watershed scheduling.
  • They could write high-quality and compelling scripts to increase viewership.
  • They could learn to write economically.

I’m going to address the later, because the other two are self-evident and before anybody says, “You’re not a scriptwriter, you don’t know what you’re talking about”, I’ll just interject the disclaimer, nope, I’m not a professional scriptwriter, but I have studied the craft of scriptwriting and I’m paraphrasing the words of people who do know what they’re talking about.

Writing is an art. Scriptwriting is a craft. This is because scriptwriting is a part of an overall production, be it stage, radio, TV or movies. If the script is not produced, it is a failed script. Part of being able to write a produceable script is to understand the limitations of the target medium and write accordingly.

Prolific scriptwriters learn this and turn in scripts that producers read and say, “I can make this on my budget.” Producers, in turn, remember this and come back to those same writers for more work.

Part of the writing process is for the author to take a critical look at each and ever scene of his/her own script and ask if it really advances the plot, and, even if it does, will it be difficult to produce. When a producer receives that script, he’ll do the same thing – or he ought to.

I contend that the writers of Primeval could easily produce a few episodes (not back to back) which did not have an incursion by an expensive CGI creature from the past or future, or even an open anomaly. They had a ensemble cast and an overarching mystery. Time could have been spent on those issues. An episode of Primeval without an anomaly should be much easier than an episode of Doctor Who without the Doctor – and the Who production team pulled that off with varying degrees of success.

In one episode of Primeval, they appeared to cut cost corners by not showing the anomaly being locked and unlocked, despite the fact that it made for an awkward scene without the visual. Yet repeatedly, they waste their FX budget on Conner and Abby’s adopted prehistoric animals, which virtually never advanced the plot in any meaningful way. If they needed a pet for comic relief, get a dog. They’re much cheaper.

I’m not saying that a program like Primeval doesn’t require expensive FX. It does. It simply wouldn’t work without the credible threat of time-traveling creatures, but the judicious use of them could have helped save the show from extinction.

Claudia Brown and Pedigree Collapse

A recent comment post on this blog got me thinking about the series Primeval’s Claudia Brown.

Fans of the show will know that Claudia Brown was a character who was becoming romantically involved with Nick Cutter. The main series villain is Nick Cutter’s wife, Helen, long missing, thought dead, but actually just traveling through time.

Very soon after Claudia and Cutter expressed their feelings for each other – which Helen was aware of – Cutter travels with Helen back to the Permian period (299 – 251 MYA – at the end of the Paleozoic era) to recover a future predator and stop it from destroying history. When they return, not realizing that they’ve left baby predators alive in the past, Claudia Brown no longer exists, and no one knows who she is, except for the returning Nick and Helen Cutter. Helen then craps all over Cutter, revealing that, before she disappeared, she was having an affair with his best friend Stephen. Clearly she does this to hurt Cutter, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that a vindictive Helen, with her time-traveling knowledge, may have engineered the disappearance of Cutter’s new love interest.

But is that what happened?

I don’t think so, but then, Primeval can be so ill-conceived at times you never can tell if some intentional is so poorly executed that you can’t discern it from background noise.

Consider: Helen and Cutter enter the anomaly to the Permian, Claudia Brown exists. Helen and Cutter return, thinking they have succeeded, but not realizing they’ve left future predators behind. Claudia Brown now no longer exists. If Helen, 251+ million years in the past, was able to hatch a plot that, by leaving random agents (the predators) behind, exhibited so much fine-grain control that it could pluck one single person out of existence… well, if she could do that she was incredibly good. She might as well be trying to fire a bullet around the planet with a rifle and hitting Claudia on the 251,000,000 circuit around the planet. (Actually, it’s even more improbable than that.)

No, I think she was unaware that Claudia was gone.

Further, you might argue that Claudia may have been there when Cutter and Helen returned and she just wasn’t mentioned and wasn’t in camera shot and that it wasn’t until after she jumped back into the anomaly that Claudia disappeared. If that were the case, Cutter would have forgotten her as well as everyone else had, so that seems unlikely, too.

Let’s, for a moment, consider the likelihood of Cutter and Helen’s mistake of leaving the baby predators altering the timeline enough to erase Claudia.

With 251 million years to compound changes in the timeline, it seems that if significant changes were wrought, that the world would be a completely unrecognizable place, likely having no similarity to the world we inhabit today.

It’s all hypothetical,of course, but here’s one way to look at it. The answer may lie in a concept called Pedigree Collapse.

People have a lot of misconceptions about… well, for the want of a better term, I shall call the Mathematics of History. Most people, for example, view their history as a binary tree. I have two parents, they each have two parents, therefore I have four grandparents. Each of them had two parents, therefore I have 8 great-grandparents. The progression goes like this: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128…

Simple, you say? Obvious? Yes, and completely wrong… or at least wrong inasmuch as people tend to assume these are all distinct people. You don’t have to go back many generations to realize that your number of ancestors will rapidly approach a number greater than the total number of humans who have ever existed on this planet. How can this be? Answer: Kissing Cousins (wink wink nudge nudge say no more!) There’s a lot more of that going on than people think.

The further you go back in you ancestors the more inevitable it is that multiple people occupy multiple places on your ancestral chart.

If a single human – or, more specifically a single human being who had offspring – far enough back in time were wiped out, huge swaths would have been cut in our ancestry and it seems unlikely that any of us would be here. (And I mean here biologically. As beings made up of the same genetic material, not the ridiculous “gosh, Jenny Lewis is the same person as Claudia Brown with a different history.) Presumably a missing person on the chart would result in others filling in the holes, leading to an ever expanding web of genetic changes.

If the future predators impacted the course of life on the planet, the changes would have been massive. And, of course, this web would have been unravelling since long before humans, mammals or even dinosaurs existed. That’s an inconceivably long period of time.

It is not at all inconceivable that a disturbance back 251+ million years would completely end the world as we know it.

On the other hand, it’s also possible to go too far back in time to have any effect.

We have to consider the misconception of continuity of life on this planet. Virtually every creature that has ever existed on this planet has already died. The vast majority of species that have ever existed are extinct. That’s a whole lot of dead.

Since 251+ million years ago, there have been at least two major planetary extinction events and lots of smaller ones. Ice ages, deserts, droughts, asteroids, mountains, seas, oceans and continents have come and gone.

Over such an immense time scale, it’s very likely that the doomed future predators’ changes would be wiped clean long before they reached the Mesozoic era, let alone the Cenozoic.

Aside: There’s 3 (if I recall correctly) baby future predators, without mother, in an unfamiliar and hostile environment. They’re mammals, therefore dependent on mom for milk (assuming they haven’t been weened.) There are no other mammals in the Permian, therefore it’s doubtful they could be raised, Romulus and Remus fashion, but some other beneficent creature. It’s likely that some or all of them will be killed before adulthood. Even if all three survived, their genetic pool is too shallow to have a long-lasting colony. There’s nothing even close for them to cross-breed with. They’re doomed in short order.

The baby predators conceivably wipe out an entire species or even more than one, but if those species were already going to die out, the effect could be negligible.

No. What Nick and Helen Cutter did back in the Permian could not have lead to Claudia Brown becoming Jenny Lewis.
So what could have? Still working the premise that Helen did this on purpose, let’s see what she could have done. For starters though, let’s consider this bit of biology: A human being is produced by the combination of a single egg and a single sperm. Mom produces one unique egg per month for her adult lifespan, dad produces millions in a single toss (so to speak.) For Claudia and Jenny to be the “same person in a different reality” as the show intimates, Jenny had to be the product of the exact same sexual act as Claudia. Considering the number of sperm working towards their goal, they’re couldn’t have been even a seconds’ difference in the act. It couldn’t have been on the kitchen table instead of the bed or the nearby park bench or the back of a car because that would have changed the result of the sperm race.
Therefore we have to conclude that not only are Jenny’s parents the same, but that her conception and the events that lead up to it were identical. That means whatever changed Claudia into Jenny happened after she was conceived.
Here’s what I consider a likely scenario: Mr. and Mrs. Brown conceive a baby. Very shortly after this moment, Mr Brown is removed from the picture, by some means, and before what would have been baby Claudia is born, Mr, Lewis marries the ex-Mrs. Brown and they raise the baby entirely as their own child. Jenny would almost have to be completely ignorant of Mr. Brown’s role in her formation, as she’d likely put 2 and 2 together when told the name of Claudia Brown. (“Hey, my mother’s first husband was named Brown, too! What a coincidence!”)
We also make some assumptions about the “normal flow of time.” We naturally assume something that didn’t happen in our timeline did happen in Jenny’s. But is that our natural tendency to see normality as a still stream that gets disturbed by a pebble. What if it is the reverse?
We don’t actually know that much about Claudia, and her history was erased, so perhaps the opposite happened in her universe. Mr. Lewis and Mrs. Lewis were biologically the parents and Mr. Brown came along to do the paternal duties. She may very well have known, but never mentioned this aspect of her family background because it was largely a trivial matter to her. There’s no way to compare it to Jenny Lewis until after the timeline change, and then the only people who would know what happened, Claudia is gone, and anyone who knew her family has forgotten her.
In this later scenario, it’s even possible that Claudia Brown was orphaned and adopted. Any of a number of things that might have led Jenny to becoming Claudia in our own timeline could have happened and we can never know – unless, of course, Helen knows, and if she did she probably took that with her to her grave.
And now, the entire program, Primeval, has taken that to its grave, too.
None of that explains the creation of the ARC, although it’s possible that, with no Claudia as government liaison, the alternate reality government team behaved differently and helped create the ARC. Perhaps the evil Leek (Claudia’s replacement) somehow pushed this entirely for his own machinations.
So what have we got? If Helen engineered Claudia’s disappearance, she did something after Claudia was already conceived, which seems a completely stupid approach. The alternative is, as I suspect, that Helen was not involved and that the writers just didn’t bother to think things through, insulting the audience once more in the process.

Primeval – A Tale of Three Cliffhangers

Cliffhangers. The bane of modern television and the province of hack writers.

Oh sure, cliffhangers have been around for a long time, they go back at least as far as the Saturday-afternoon movie series of the 30s. Cleverly designed stories intended to get the kids back each week to spend their hard-earned cash.

Did it go back further? Did cliffhanger vaudeville shows exist? What about live theatre? DId Shakespeare ever write a cliffhanger?

When is a cliffhanger an important plot device rather than a cheat to the audience that forces them to return to get the rest of the story?

Even if you didn’t pay money, you’ve invested your time. At what point were you cheated out of your time by the writer stopping in the middle of a story and saying, “See ya’ later!”?

Rarely did this used to happen in “real” movies. The first I can recall, The Empire Strikes Back, was a horrible cheat. The story had no resolution at all and was nothing more than a setup for the third and final movie. Given the choice, I would have preferred to wait and watch both at the same time, rather than waiting years between them.

TV series began this sort of thing sometime back in the 80′s (As I recall, anyway). Presumably as a means to get viewers to write the networks and demand their show be renewed. Cliffhanger? Artistic statement or cynical attempt to manipulate the public?

As you may have ascertained, I’m of dual-mind on the subject. When I know, in advance and with my own agreement that a story is a cliffhanger, I have no problem with it. When there’s a four-part Doctor Who, I know parts one, two and three are going to end of a (sometimes horribly lame) cliffhanger, but I also know the story will completed and the end of part four and that my investment of time will be rewarded. (Horns of Nimon, notwithstanding.)

So, let’s look at Primeval. I gather that Primeval is taking a week off and next week will be back with the series’ finale. I also gather that DVDs of the third series are already “in the wild” and you only need do a few minutes research on the net and you’ll know what happens next week. For the sake of disclosure, I might through this discourse reveal spoilers about the finale, as it’s been spoiled for me.

Let’s start at the beginning with series one.

Anomalies started forming, strange creatures were getting through. Paleontologist Nick Cutter accidentally (or through the intervention of his missing wife) gets drawn into the story. Also, Stephen his assistant, Conner a student and Abby a zoo worker are drawn in. They get bound up by the Official Secrets act and start working with Lester and Claudia Brown. In the first episode, with an anomaly open to the Permian, Cutter goes through and finds a dead human skeleton and a camera. When the pictures are developed, they are of his missing wife, Helen.

We have a mystery – several actually. What are the anomalies? Who is the dead person? What does Helen know?

Through the series, we learn nothing about the anomalies. They are, as best we can tell, freak natural events with no rhyme or pattern. We do learn, slowly, that Helen knows something about them and that she has some connection with Stephen.

We learn that there are “junction points” of anomalies, where multiple anomalies exist, which Helen seems to be able to navigate.

Finally, a terrifying future predator comes through the Permian anomaly (apparently another anomaly exists in the Permian which leads to the future.) Cutter, along with Helen and military backup take some orphaned (Cutter thinks) baby future predators through the anomaly in an attempt to find the future anomaly, but they escape in the Permian.

Cutter realizes, too late, that this second Permian anomaly isn’t exactly the same as before. It now leads to an earlier point in the Permian. One of the team is killed (leaving the human skeleton that Cutter found previously (in the past’s future) and Cutter also takes the photos of Helen that they retrieved from the camera.

Escaping with lives, Helen and Cutter return to the present, not realizing that baby predators were left behind.

In the present, Helen reveals that she plans to continue exploring the anomalies and drops the bombshell on Cutter that she had an affair with his trusted friend and confidant, Stephen, then escapes into the closing anomaly.

Only then does Cutter learn that Claudia Brown has ceased to exist and no one remembers her except himself. End of series one.

Let’s look at that cliffhanger a little in regards to the context of the series.

There were really two mysteries in the first series. One was the anomalies themselves and nothing really was learned about them at all. They started for no apparent reason, appeared with no apparent pattern, and had no apparent one-to-one relationship between time and space. They were presented as almost a force of nature – one that is not understood, but cannot be avoided. It’s the mystery that is not to be solved. Perhaps it has no solution.

But there was a mystery or two that could be solved: Who was the dead body, and what was Helen doing having her picture taken in the Permian? These mysteries were cleared up. The writers gave us the answers that they had been promising. The cliffhanger, with Claudia Brown being going and time being changed was new, unexpected and a teaser. I can’t say I liked it, but it was a surprise new mystery.

In the second series, once again, we’re presented with a series of mysteries. The anomalies continue in pretty much the same fashion, albeit with the added factor of Conner’s anomaly detector telling them where they are.

In the second series, we wonder who is the traitor at the ARC? When we learn it is Leak, we wonder what’s he up to? Will Stephen be fooled by Helen? Will he betray his friends? How dumb can Conner be about his girlfriend? Who is the mysterious “Cleaner” who dies in the first episode but shows up again and again?

By the end of the series, all these questions have been answered, with the possible exception of the identity of the Cleaner. At least we are informed at the end that he is not one indestructible person, but an army of identical individuals. There’s not much of a cliffhanger in series two. It’s more Helen pointing out that time can be changed and that, perhaps, she’ll be bringing Stephen back. No cliffhanger is really needed, because after the first series started airing, Primeval was guaranteed two more series production.

Now we come to the third series. Ratings have been steadily declining, but the series is still popular. Ad revenue is down, but the cost of the show is high. The fate of Primeval is uncertain.

This year we start to learn something about the anomalies. They’re been around forever. (Well, obvious really, since know they go back at least as far as the Silurian.) More than that, they’ve been around throughout human history, undetected. They can be predicted, first by Cutter’s model, then by the mysterious future ARC artifact. They can be controlled with a proper (again future ARC) device. There is another government conspiracy aiming to use the anomalies for purpose or purposes unknown. They can be captured and moved using magnetism. They can be locked down. They have something to do with a mysterious government project from before the second world war. Finally, at last, the mystery of the anomalies is beginning to unravel.

Helen’s back, and she’s got a new mystery. She has seen the future. Mankind has been destroyed by the future predators. For some reason, she blames the ARC and Nick Cutter for unleashing the predators on the world. She has a crusade to save the world and she is so fanatical she kills Cutter to prevent the future she has seen. It doesn’t work. The mysterious artifact from the future has some purpose, but what?

So how do we fare by the end of the third series? In, we learn nothing about the cause of the anomalies. Do the mysterious future devices create them or simply open and close existing one. Looking at episodes 9 and 10, it seems in episode 9 they can open one anywhere, but in 10 you have to seek them out – and they clearly can’t be opened to just any point in time and space. We learn nothing about the pre-war project, in fact, the team ignore it completely. We know nothing of Christine Johnson’s military project. They do nothing with the ability to move anomalies. We learn that, in the future, the ARC has the technology to map and to open and close anomalies, nothing more. From episode 9 to episode 10, Helen’s plan to save mankind from destruction at the hands of the future predators suddenly becomes a plan to save the big, beautiful Earth from mean old mankind instead. All she had to do was look at the future without man to realize that the world didn’t need saving, it took care of it itself. Her madness dies with her at the end of the series. So, with the exception of Helen attempting to stop… something, all the mysteries in series three are left unanswered. On top to that, they strand Danny in the Pliocene, and Abby and Conner up a tree in the Cretaceous.

This is a series’ ending designed nothing more than to irritate people into demanding another series of Primeval, but perhaps they’ve forgotten the most important thing. If you shit on your audience too often, they don’t always come back.

Just in time for Primeval

Discover magazine has posted the following Rules for Time Travelers.

Actually, it takes most of the fun out of the whole concept, but in summary they are:

0. There are no paradoxes

1. Traveling into the future is easy

2. Traveling into the past is hard – but maybe not impossible

3. Traveling through time is like traveling through space

4. Things that travel together, age together

5. Black holes are not time machines

6. If something happened, it happened

7. There is no meta-time

8. You can’t travel back to before the time machine was built

9. Unless you go to a parallel universe

10. And even then, your old universe is still there

I strongly encourage the writers of Primeval to read them…

…of course, it would be the end of the show… but that can’t be far off, anyway.

Do they really listen to me?! – Primeval, Series 3, Episode 8 – Review, Spoilers

Synopsis

An anomaly opens at a test track, the crew dispatch the scene, and encounter a giant bug, which is luckily killed by a car. The anomaly is closed.

Abby’s brother Jack (hereafter referred to as Jack-Ass) pokes through his sister’s purse and finds the anomaly detector. When she won’t tell him what it’s really for, he (quite naturally, it seems) steals it. (I mean, what else would somebody do if they’ve been told to mind their own business?)

At the anomaly site, two of the dumbest soldiers ever put on this earth are killed by a second insect without even raising the alarm.

Back at the base, Abby performs an autopsy on the dead bug and proclaims it to be related to an ant or a wasp and that it’s stinger has mutated into an ovitube – capable of implanting baby bugs inside hosts – like humans. She also notes high levels of selenite. Sarah realizes that the artifact was also covered in selenite, therefore they must come from the same place. (Logical really, there’s only a whole planet and 4.6 billion years (plus all the future) of time for these two things to have come from, so finding a similar substance must be conclusive proof, right?)

About this time, Jack-ass has peddled his little bicycle right to the anomaly, where he finds the two dead soldiers, now hatching baby bugs. Conner calls the soldiers to warn that they are returned, but Jack-ass picks up the phone lying on the floor. Conner realizes what’s happened, just as the big bug attacks Jack-ass. Sadly, Jack-ass gets in the car and escapes. In the process, he breaks the anomaly locking device, and drives into the future. It’s clearly the same place where we earlier saw the artifact retrieved from. He drives a short distance in the ruins, then gets out of the car and falls into a big hole.

The team arrive again at the anomaly and, without any form of back, proper equipment or the slightest bit of common sense, enter the anomaly to help Abby find her worthless turd of a brother. Sara stays behind to get the second locking device working, unaware that there are still baby bugs waiting for her.

In the future, predators are everywhere, and the team slowly advances towards Jack-ass’s car.

They find him, hoist him up, get him out, burn the bug hill, start a fight between the giant bugs and the predators and escape, but not before Quinn sees one of Christine Johnson’s carrying out an operation to retrieve a woman.

Analysis

So why do I say they must have been listening to me? No because this story is any better, but because at least throughout the episode they kept pointing out how incredibly stupid they were being. At least they’ve given up the pretense that they’re not morons.

Once again, I’m not going to go into a deep analysis of the implications of this episode. I’ll not bother pointing out that insect size is limited by their physiology and their environment. They don’t have lungs, so they absorb oxygen from the environment. Bigger bugs means higher Oxygen content. Oxygen levels high enough to yield bugs as big as this episode showed would mean a highly combustible atmosphere- easily detonated by Becker’s gunfire (not to mention Quinn’s flare.) I’ll not linger on Jack-ass’s twisted worldview – “If you hadn’t lied to me about things, I wouldn’t have to steal your stuff to find out what you’re lying to me about.” Clearly this boy’s quest for knowledge is epic in its proportions. I’ll not bother mentioning (yet again) that the predators just aren’t that dangerous. They’re nothing that a well-equipped group of soldiers couldn’t handle and yet Conner says, “If they got out, mankind wouldn’t have a chance.” Rubbish.

No, I’m going to concentrate on a pointless exercise in analyzing what we saw of the future. What does it tell us? (Honestly, I don’t really believe that the vision of the future will be at all internally consistent when they get around to revealing it, but, “What the heck?” It’s fun to speculate.

Let’s start with the architecture and the technology. Ignoring the artifact and the fancy dohicky we see in the previews for next week, everything looks contemporary. Contemporary cars, contemporary buildings. I don’t recall seeing any signs or license plates to see what kind of language was in use.

The streets are lined with stopped cars, the doors flung open, as if the entire city was trying to escape and the traffic jam stopped them, so they took to their feet. It was a massive, immediate crisis, not a slow incursion of predators. (Unless a huge number of predators arrived all at once, which would imply they came from another anomaly.) Similarly, the insects seem like an unlikely reason for a sudden evacuation.

Although the buildings show some sign of decay, it isn’t more than 100 years worth, and the cars would have deteriorated faster, leaving the conclusion that the evacuation may have only been 20-50 years ago (relative to the anomaly) and since the cars are contemporary, that puts it, lets say 30-60 years in our future. 100 years at the outside.

Not enough time for super bugs to evolve, for the atmosphere to beef up enough oxygen to produce the bugs (oh, wait, that didn’t happen) and not enough time for the predators to evolve.

But wait, there’s more – the mountains have risen up under the cities (or did valleys fall away?) I think we can safely say it isn’t London. Any timescale long enough to produce ruined cities atop spiring peaks would have either been long enough for (a) Cars and technology to have advanced beyond anything recognizable or (b) human city and car ruins to crumble to dust long ago.

Any way you slice, their view of the future is all wrong.

Primeval – Here’s a twist I never expected!

From Variety:

In a high-six-figure deal, Warner Bros. has acquired screen rights to “Primeval,”the ITV series that airs in the U.S. on BBC America and Sci Fi Channel.

Akiva Goldsman and Kerry Foster will produce through Goldsman’s WB-based Weed Road banner. Emily Cummins will also be involved in a producing capacity.

Goldsman, who scripted the Ron Howard-directed “Angels and Demons” withDavid Koepp, will hire a writer to draft “Primeval.”


Movie? Primeval? Why do I almost fear this more than the Land of the Lost movie?

Fate is Determined – Primeval, Series 3, Episode 7 – Review, Spoilers

Worms? What can of worms?

Synopsis

In the middle ages (14th, I think) a “dragon” menaces a village. Sir William goes forth to do battle and we see the “dragon” to be a dinosaur.

In the 21st Century, an anomaly opens up in a car wrecking yard and out comes a dracorex hogwartsia (no, I’m not making that up.) The terrified crane operator fights back and nearly kills the dracorex, which is already wounded with a lance in its side.

Meanwhile, Conner discovers Rex up for auction on eBay and contacts Abby’s good-for-nothing-plot-complication-of-a-brother Jack and tells him to get rex back. Keeping the incident a secret from Abby.

Better late than never, the anomaly detector notices the anomaly and alerts the crew, who arrive just in time to save the dracorex. They try to heard it back through – not seeming the slightest bit interested in how a manmade artifact is imbedded in its side – the anomaly, and just as they are about to succeed, Sir William charges through the anomaly in pursuit of the dracorex, which runs away with Sir William in pursuit.

While Quinn and Conner pursue the knight, Abby and Becker track down the dracorex.

The knight is causing all sorts of problems, but, coincidentally, there’s a carnival parade through the streets of London, so he doesn’t quite stick out like a sore thumb. Quinn and Conner catch up to him several times, but he repeatedly escapes them.

Abby and Becker catch up with the dracorex, and Becker wants to shoot it, but Abby threatens to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart if he does. The beast finally collapses rendering the Mexican standoff moot and they haul the beast back to the junk yard where Abby tries to nurse it back to health.

While all this is going on, Sarah Page decides to trick her way through the anomaly, where she does field research on Sir William. She lies about her authority to pass through the anomaly, and then demands that the guard pretend he saw nothing when she comes back.

Using her knowledge of Sir William, and the extremely fortuitous placement of Sir William’s grave, Sarah convinces him to return to the anomaly. He then battles it out with Abby, who seems to be the only one man enough to take him on, to save the dracorex’s life. He defeats her, but her willingness to sacrifice herself wins him over and he departs, leaving the dracorex behind. Another pet for Abby, it seems.

Jack fails to get Rex back, so Conner takes Becker and some armed soldiers to Jack’s friend and retrieves Rex.

Analysis

Ever since this series started, there’s been the “new” concept that the anomalies have opened in the past, giving rise to various mythological legends. It was that information that allowed Cutter to devise his map of the anomalies, which was verified to be accurate, therefore it was just a matter of time before that showed up in the plot, but this opens a huge can of worms.

Destiny, fate, pre-determinancy and all that baggage that goes along with time travel stories. We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s time for a refresher: Either the past is fixed or it isn’t. Conversely, since the future is someone’s else’s past, the present is either fixed or it isn’t.

Primeval as followed the notion that the past is not fixed, hence the need to return as many creatures through the anomalies as possible. It’s also the reason that Cutter’s world disappeared and was replaced by the current universe and lead to the non-existing of Claudia Brown and replacement by Jenny Lewis. The anomalies represent a very real and incredibly far-reaching threat for the very fabric of reality. Frankly, the ARC doesn’t take this seriously enough. There is nothing more important in the world than stopping the anomalies. It is simply a matter of time before the universe gets changed again – and yet, the people working at the ARC seem to have no grasp that their very existence hangs on a thread that could be severed with the opening of the next anomaly.

A commenter noted earlier that Jenny Lewis would never quit her job just because she nearly died. Could someone walk away – no matter what the reason – from the single most important job in the world? The lives of billions of people, plus billions, if not trillions of plants and animals throughout all time are threatened and the ARC is the only place (we know of) that is combating them. There’s a lot of pressure in a job like that, but it isn’t one that anyone with a conscience could walk away from.

But now we have a new wrinkle. Sir William left his time – he was no longer there to get married and die and be buried. When he left, time would have changed and his grave would be gone – unless it was pre-destined that he would return to the past. If that’s the case, then time can’t be changed and history is safe – but we know it isn’t because of Claudia/Jenny.

So, the next question is, what about the second anomaly in the 14th century? You know, the one that must be there letting the dracorex through in the first place? Keeping with Cutter’s map/theory those events are now part of historical fact – and always have been. They apparently did no lasting damage to the fabric of time. (Although, how would we know it if it had?) If these anomalies have been opening throughout human history, can we not also assume that they’ve been happening throughout the entire 4.6 billion year history of Earth? Are Permian creatures walking through anomalies into the Cretaceous? And why is it that creatures seem to come through the anomalies to our time, but for the most part, things in our time don’t go into the anomalies? If an anomaly opened on a farm in Surrey, would cows be just as likely to walk through into the past as a dinosaur would into the present?

Should we be wondering if anomalies are more one-way than another? Consider, they’re highly magnetic – hold up a spoon and it shoots into the anomaly. What’s it do on the other side? Shoot back through? If not, what does that mean? What would have happened to Sir William in that armor suit of his?

Oh, wait, they’re anomalies they don’t have to behave in a consistent fashion.

Let’s turn to the ARC team then and their procedural operations. Can we at least assume that they keep all their needed gear in their vehicles, ready for a scramble? If so, why don’t they get it out of the car when they go to investigate? They always seem to arrive completely unprepared.

Clearly, from the way Dr. Page has to trick her way through the anomaly, the ARC has standing orders not to go through. That’s probably a good idea when it could lead to the destruction of time. In that case, shouldn’t they also have a standing rule to put creatures back through the anomaly? Wouldn’t Becker know that? Why was he planning on shooting the dinosaur? Would Abby have really shot him with the tranquilizer dart? Does she realize (and as a zoologist, she should) that a dosage big enough for the dracorex would surely kill Becker?

Speaking of Dr. Page going through the anomaly. First she lies to the guard, telling him she has authorization, then on the way out she tells him that he never saw her. Shouldn’t that have been a tip off that she BSed her way in in the first place? Shouldn’t he report that to someone? At least she showed enough curiosity to want to defy orders to go through the anomaly and research. That kind of spirit of inquiry is completely missing in everyone else on the team.

Looks like the end is heating up next week – an expedition into the future to see the aftermath of the destruction of the human race. (Unfortunately, it looks like they’ll be chasing Abby’s good-for-nothing-plot-complication-of-a-brother Jack.)